L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e ~ D o s t o ï e v s k i

L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e  ~  D o s t o ï e v s k i

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Monsieur et madame de Thelluson, by Liotard, 1760

An absolutely charming pair of pastel portraits, perfect examples of Liotard's work. The particular blue** that he used so frequently is quite prominent here. Both portraits are quite wonderful in their own right - the lively expressions, full of wit; the precise, elegant detail; the bright and harmonious coloration - but seen together they are all that much more. Their gaze quite clearly states their warm admiration and enjoyment of one another - these portraits were taken in the year of their marriage - and it's a delightful intimacy they share.

Julie Marguerite de Thellusson, née Ployard (1740-1820).
Isaac-Louis de Thellusson, Seigneur de la Gara (1727-1801).
The long locks of his powdered hair have been put up at the back of his head with a comb, an arrangement I haven't seen in any other portrait; to
keep the powder off of his fine embroidered silk dressing gown, I presume? A small, charming detail:  both his ring and her bracelet - a framed
miniature on a black ribbon, actually - contain tiny portraits. It would probably be safe to assume that they are images of their new spouses.

** If I knew the names of colors, as I should, I could tell you the actual name of this particular blue. It's a strange void in my "font of useless information" - as my father used to call his own cache of such fairly superfluous knowledge - this inability to rattle off all the specific varieties of ochres and crimsons and umbers. Alizarin, cerulean, madder, aureolin; you see how the names of colors are really quite wonderful...?

Saturday, November 29, 2014

A belated remembrance of Veterans Day: Wilfred Owen, Anthem for Doomed Youth, 1917

Wilfred Edward Salter Owen (18 March 1893, Oswestry, Shropshire, England – 4 November 1918, Sambre-Oise Canal, France), English poet, considered by most the best, most important of the "War Poets" of World War I. From a middle-class family, he discovered his poetic vocation at about the age of ten, but due to the strained financial circumstances of his family, his education was rather piecemeal. Working as a tutor in English and French in Bordeaux when the war broke out, he returned to England, where he enlisted in 1915. He was later wounded and sent to recuperate in Scotland. There he met fellow poet and soldier Siegfried Sassoon, who assisted him in the crafting of this poem, and with whom he probably had a romantic relationship.

Returned to active service, on the front line in France, Owen was killed in action exactly one week - almost to the hour - before the signing of the Armistice. He was twenty-five. His mother received the telegram giving the news of his death as the church bells were ringing out in celebration of Armistice Day.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Philippe de Bourbon, later duc de Vendôme, by Jacob Ferdinand Voet, circa 1670s

Philippe de Bourbon, duc de Vendôme (23 August 1655, Paris - 24 January 1727, Paris), called "Le Prieur de Vendôme" or "Le Grand Prieur", the fourth and last duc de Vendôme.

Born to Louis de Bourbon, second duc de Vendôme, and Laura Mancini, as the second of two surviving sons. Like most younger sons of the nobility he early made a career in the military. In time he was able to acquire the prestigious post of Grand Prior for France in the Order of Malta, with which he was able to attain numerous important commands, and would hold senior military positions throughout his life. During the Spanish War of Succession, Louis XIV briefly put him in command of French forces in Italy. But he was subsequently demoted to a position subordinate to that of his elder brother, Louis Joseph - then duc de Vendôme and a gifted commander - and served in that role during the remainder of the campaign.

His father had died when Philippe was only fourteen, and when his elder brother died, childless, in 1712, he inherited his family's ducal titles. But he had never married, and when he died fifteen years later at the age of seventy-one, the dukedom of Vendôme became extinct.


Jacob Ferdinand Voet (circa 1639, Antwerp - circa 1689, Paris), Flemish Baroque portrait painter, the son of the painter Elias Voet. After training in Paris, he spent much time in Rome, then Florence and Turin, before returning to Antwerp in about 1684. Two years later, he returned to Paris, becoming court painter, and worked there until his death.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Kneeling Nun - recto and verso, by Martin van Meytens, circa 1731

Unconventional indiscretion...!


Martin van Meytens (24 June 1695, Stockholm – 23 March 1770, Vienna), Dutch-Swedish painter best known for his portraits of Empress Maria Theresia of Austria, her family, and others at the Habsburg court. His clear, brightly-lit, precisely detailed style was exemplary of an Austrian "high-Rococo", and was very influential among his contemporaries. He began his artistic studies with his father, the painter Martin Meytens the Elder, who had moved from Hague to Sweden. The young artist went on to study in London, Paris, and Vienna, then lived and worked in Rome and Turin for some time. At the beginning of his career he painted enamel miniature portraits, but began working in oil around 1730, after having settled in Vienna. He became popular as a portrait painter with the Austrian aristocracy and in court circles. In 1732 be was appointed court painter, and in 1759 the director of the Viennese Academy of Fine Arts.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Evening jacket, House of Worth, circa 1890

The extraordinary design and remarkable craftsmanship of this evening jacket - jet bead embroidery on silk velvet - shows the influence of the equally elaborate men's wear of the late eighteenth century - straight front; prominent, turned back cuffs; lavish decoration; a radiating pattern to the embroidery - an influence that was very popular at the time this quite glamorous garment was produced.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Lady in hunting dress, French School, late seventeenth or early eighteenth centrury

We don't know the author of this scratched but charming painting. Nor, apparently, do we know the lady. But how delicious she is, with her rouged cheeks and her powdered hair falling loose about her shoulders; maybe she's only just removed her tricorne hat with its bright rosette of ribbon. And then there's her gorgeous, lavishly embroidered silver habit - one can almost feel the weight of it, the heavy swoop of it in movement - livened with the luscious salmon-colored satin of her undersleeves and the fluff of ribbons at her neck. (And by the feet of the excited hound we can also just make out her matching pink shoe.)

How is it possible that we no longer know the name of this glamorous and obviously well-born personage...?

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Prince Arthur, portraits by Winterhalter... and Sargent

At the age of seven weeks, 1850.

Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught and Strathearn (Arthur William Patrick Albert; 1 May 1850, Buckingham Palace, London – 16 January 1942, Bagshot Park, Surrey), the seventh child and third son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. As an infant and small child, he was a great favorite with his mother; an often critical and demanding parent, the Queen was completely charmed by her young son.

With his mother at Osborne House, 1850.
"The First of May 1851", 1851. Prince Arthur is shown with his parents and his godfather, Arthur, Duke of Wellington. The picture celebrates
a date of threefold significance: the first birthday of the infant Prince, the eighty-second birthday of the "Iron  Duke", and the opening day of
the Great Exhibition, a personal triumph for Prince Albert; the Crystal Palace can be seen in the distance.

He was educated by private tutors before entering the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich at the age of sixteen. Upon graduation, he was commissioned as a lieutenant in the British Army, where he served for some forty years, seeing service in various parts of the British Empire. In 1874, he was created a royal duke, becoming the Duke of Connaught and Strathearn, as well as the Earl of Sussex.


In 1879, he married Princess Louise Margaret of Prussia, and together they had three children. Their eldest child, Margaret, married the Crown Prince of Sweden; she died at thirty-eight, but the current Swedish Royal family are her descendants. For many years, Arthur maintained a liaison with Leonie Leslie, sister of Jennie Churchill, but remained devoted to his wife; in fact, his wife was very understanding and accepting, making it a congenial arrangement for all concerned.

In costume as Henry VIII, 1853.
The three-year-old Prince is depicted in a uniform is stated to be that of a Lieutenant in the 1st Foot Guards,
but the shoulder-strap plate and the arrangement of the buttons on the cuffs are those of the 3rd, or Scots
Fusilier, Guards, 1853. (The uniform was later passed on to Prince Arthur's son.)

He was appointed as Governor General of Canada in 1911 by his nephew, King George V, occupying the post until succeeded by the Duke of Devonshire in 1916. Given his military service, the selection of Arthur proved to be prudent, as he acted as the King's, and thus the Canadian Commander-in-Chief's, representative through the first years of the First World War.

With his younger brother Leopold and sister Louise, 1856.

After the end of his viceregal tenure, Arthur returned to the United Kingdom and there, as well as in India, performed various royal duties, while also again taking up military duties. Though he retired from public life in 1928, he continued to be involved with the army even into the Second World War. He was Queen Victoria's last surviving son at his death at the age of ninety-one.

Portrait by John Singer Sargent, 1908.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Three paintings of Grant, by Daniel Barkley, 2000-2001

I know little about this Canadian artist whose work is based almost entirely of the male nude. Many of his paintings are of a higher concept than these three simple, forthright watercolors. But I really love the rough drawing and brushwork here, which makes such a beautiful contrast with the feeling of vulnerability in the model's pose and what we're allowed to intuit of his psychology; his nakedness is as much spiritual as physical.


From the artist's website:
Born in Montreal in 1962, Daniel Barkley holds a Master of Fine Arts from Concordia University. His many solo and group exhibitions include shows across Canada and the United States (Toronto, Calgary, Montreal, New York, Santa-Fe, San Francisco, Mexico City...). In 2004, the Musée des arts contemporain des Laurentides hosted a retrospective of his works, and in 2007, University of Toronto's Justina M. Barnicke Gallery assembled and presented a collection of works defining his career to date. Recently, Barkley was short-listed for the Kingston Prize, Canada’s portrait competition; his watercolours have also won top prizes at national competitions, including the Canadian Society of Painters Watercolour’s A.J. Casson Medal 2002 and 2012.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Carved Room at Petworth House, West Sussex, by Charles Robert Leslie, circa 1856

Petworth House is a late 17th-century mansion, rebuilt in 1688 by Charles Seymour, 6th Duke of Somerset. The site was previously occupied by a fortified manor house founded by Henry de Percy; the 13th-century chapel and undercroft still survive. The building houses an important collection of art, including paintings by Turner - a regular visitor to Petworth - and Van Dyck, carvings by Grinling Gibbons, classical and neoclassical sculptures, including ones by John Flaxman, and wall and ceiling paintings by Louis Laguerre. 

The house stands in a 700-acre landscaped park designed by "Capability" Brown, and is one of the more famous in England, largely on account of a number of pictures of it which were painted by Turner, and is inhabited by the largest herd of fallow deer in England. For the past two-hundred and fifty years the estate has been in the hands of the Wyndham family, but the house and deer park were handed over to the nation in 1947, and are now managed by the National Trust. 

The Carved Room, named for the celebrated limewood carvings of  Grinling Gibbons which were completed in the early 1690s, has been much altered over the centuries, and looks very different today. But I adore the state presented here. And this painting, with its great swathe of sun-drenched red silk curtain trailing on the floor, is a wonderful balance of quietude and drama. It's just the kind of painting I'd like to paint, myself; it's really more me than me!


Charles Robert Leslie RA (19 October 1794, London – 5 May 1859), English genre painter. The son of American parents, he and his family returned to the Untied States and settled in Philadelphia. He was educated there and eventually apprenticed to a bookseller, but his real interests were painting and the theatre. After his great promise in the former was discovered, a fund was raised to enable him to study in Europe. In 1811, at the age of seventeen, he returned to London bearing important letters of introduction and was admitted as a student of the Royal Academy, where he would win two silver medals. At first he seemed destined to join the ranks of history painters, but soon discovered his real talent was as a painter of cabinet pictures, most often illustrating the great works of literature. He also painted portraits and completed several important commissions for Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Leslie married in 1825 and he and his wife had six children. In 1826 he was elected a full member of the Royal Academy, and the following year he was elected to the new National Academy of Design in New York as an honorary academician. In 1833, he returned to America to assume the position of teacher of drawing at  the West Point military academy but, unhappy there, only six months later he returned to England, where he would remain until his death at the age of sixty-four.